I've got about a month to go until our son is born, but I've been pondering the birth. It seems like you can find technical and medical information in books and resources about what will happen if you have to have a c-section but there isn't always that kind of advice you are looking for from someone who has been there.
I've been there three times before, so I'm kind of prepared for what to expect this round if everything goes well. I just thought that I'd share a few things I've learned along the way and will definitely put into practice myself this time, just in case for some reason you find that a c-section delivery is necessary for you.
- Drink lots of water in the hospital, maybe hot tea - but avoid juice, soda, and milk for at least a day or two. Go with the liquid diet the first day even if the doc says you are allowed to eat other food and you are feeling hungry. One of the uncomfortable parts of recovery is getting your gastro-intestinal tract back into smooth functioning. You'll need to pass gas - and you'll be asked about this - but you don't really want to build up gas more than is necessary because it will be extremely painful - so the tips above really help with that. Plus, you're doc will also be looking for you to poop too and lots of water will help things stay softer. Also, when you finally do start eating regular foods again - go for food that has some fiber in it and eat a moderate amount (don't over eat even if you are really hungry).
- Take the medicine! Now anesthetics can work differently for different people. I've had an epidural, and epidural/spinal combo and a spinal and the spinal definitely worked the best for me. But in all cases, you eventually come off that anesthesia and start taking a painkiller in the form of pills. Alternating Percocet and Tylenol (I think it is Tylenol 3 or something like that) which is pretty standard -so that they overlap works wonders for me. The trick is to not let the pain get out of hand, because once it does it is really, really miserable and takes some time to get back to comfort again. DON'T try to tough out the pain at any time, BE ASSERTIVE with your nursing staff and if you are uncomfortable at all TELL THEM. I tell my nurses to just go ahead and bring me the medicine as often as I can have it and if for some reason they are slightly behind on time, I don't hesitate to ring for them. Those medications are safe for the nursing baby and in the long run will help you. You cannot recover well and deal with caring for a new baby if you can't sleep or rest because you are in agony. You just had major abdominal surgery and pain management is necessary - so make good use of it so that you can get better! I've been through poor pain management and good pain management - and good pain management after the surgery is key to a good experience. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
- Let people help you, especially if you are not used to it. The nursing staff has to take care of you in some ways that challenge modesty and are a little uncomfortable for the self-sufficient or private person. Get over it. Let them help. Also, enlist help from your family, friends, husband - whoever is there. Stop doing everything yourself even if you can. Ask for what you need, ask for what you want. Manage, delegate, and then rest! Rest is very important. Don't worry about getting out of bed in the middle of the night to pick up the baby yourself because your husband is sleeping and you don't want to disturb him - wake him up! Ask him to bring the baby to you. Or the nurses. Or wake someone up for water if you need it. Take advantage of the help you have now to get better for when you have less help later.
- Tell your nurses what you need. If you need pain medication, make sure they bring it to you on time. You'll have lots of people coming in during the night to check on you - check your blood pressure, bring you medicine, check on the baby, ask you questions - it can get really annoying and can definitely interrupt your ability to sleep and get the rest you need to heal and take care of new baby. Just tell them you want them to come as infrequently as possible.
- Use the nursery if you need rest. One of the hardest things to get over is letting go of that precious new little one. Mom often doesn't want baby out of sight. I get that and I keep my baby right with me as much as possible. But again, rest is necessary for you to be a good mom and to recover well. The nurses who work in the nursery love babies and take good care of them. If you need to send the baby to the nursery for a couple hours so that you can sleep - DO IT. They will bring them back to you when they get hungry or whenever you request. In the meantime, your precious bundle will sleep peacefully under the watchful eye of someone else while you actually get some sleep. Being a new mom isn't easy - rest helps perspective a lot - for mom and dad. As I said before, let someone help you.
- Pack clothing (or send hubby for clothes) that are old and comfy and will fit your still poofy and now sore belly. Soft underwear with a wide band or no band at all are the best - though the hospital will provide funny mesh underwear for you which you may or may not prefer. PJ pants that are loose in the waist and soft and a loose t-shirt are great. You will still bleed and need to wear a pad even if you don't deliver vaginally - so old clothes are best. Bring a robe and some socks or slippers for walking around the hospital in. Let someone help you in the shower and to get on and off the toilet. You will be sore and need this help at first - especially if you labored before the c-section, your legs will also be quite wobbly.
- Bring a Boppy Pillow to the hospital to help support the baby while you feed him.
- You may shake a lot at first after the surgery - something like shivering. This is completely normal and due to the anesthesia. It may be uncomfortable or strange at first, but just try to relax your breathing and rest, it will go away after a short while.
- You probably will not want visitors the first day. You may choose to make exceptions for your parents or best friend, but it is wise to have your husband tell everyone else not to come before later on the second day.
- Recovery is not fun, but it does happen. The body is amazing - absolutely astounding. You will still need to prepare for some restrictions at home however. Again, ask for help as much as you can get it. While you are in the hospital, think positively. Use these couple of days where you don't have to think about preparing meals, or cleaning up after them, or taking care of a house, etc... to rest and to pray and to bond with your baby. Take the time to stare at your precious newborn, to talk to your husband, to work on nursing (make use of the lactation consultant). You may be working on recovering and stuck at the hospital for a few days, but make use of the rare opportunity to put all the rest of the world and everyone else's needs aside and just be with your husband and your baby - that time can be a very precious commodity.